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.

IN SEARCH OF RAINBOWS

Wimbleball Lake high on Exmoor has earned a reputation as one of the West Country’s Premier Fly Fishery’s with its hard fighting full tailed rainbows and immaculate wild browns attracting anglers from far and wide. This recent upturn in fortune has been delivered by Mark Underhill his wife Trudi and their family team who continue to build on the venue’s attractiveness as an angling venue.

I was fortunate to join with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce and Angling Journalist Dominic Garret at Rainbow Valley Trout Farm prior to a day’s fishing. The farm situated beside the pristine River Exe supplies quality rainbows to Stillwater trout fisheries across the UK including Rutland, Grafham, Pittsford numerous South West lakes including Kennick and of course Wimbleball.

The Trout Farming industry has had a difficult decade or so as market forces, the challenges of climate change and ever increasing demand for water has increased the need for legislation.

I arrived at the trout farm fifteen minutes or so before time and it was appropriate that a faint rainbow arched across the valley as the morning sun illuminated the scene.

I chatted with Mark about future plans and life in general for a few minutes until Jeff and Dom arrived. We then embarked upon a brief and fascinating tour of the trout farm. The first impression was of the cleanliness of the incoming water flowing in through a fast flowing leat. Within this swam an impressive number of rainbow trout that were destined for stocking out into Wimbleball. The trout are kept here for a while in a sort of strength and conditioning period ensuring they are fighting fit before stocking out. Mark tossed trout pellets into the water where they were eagerly devoured in a swirling frenzy.

We walked slowly around the stew ponds listening intently to Marks fascinating explanation of fish rearing and its many complex issues. An in depth understanding of the environment was apparent as we discussed the challenges posed by invasive species such as signal crayfish and Himalayan balsam. Whilst the numbers of trout were considerable the stew ponds were large and the fish in superb condition.

The four of us could have spent many hours discussing the world of angling and beyond but the sight of the trout and the call of the lake was strong.

The journey to Wimbleball required us to take a scenic route as a result of numerous road improvement schemes across the area. A trio of anglers took a ride through the twisting and turning roads of Devon and Somerset. Pretty hamlets and villages, trees in blossom and glimpses of streams and ponds brought thoughts of future explorations that will probably never see the light of day.

We assembled on the Wimbleball shoreline where we were joined by Dom’s friend Charles Halliday, who runs the Fishwish angling coaching business. a keen kayaker who had agreed upon the comfort of boat for this day afloat. We eagerly and loaded our gear into the boats deciding that we would all head for the Bessoms end of the reservoir and hopefully catch a few rainbows to start the day.

Early in the season bank fishers often out fish the boats if they can locate the fish. The big advantage with the boat is that you can cover plenty of water by drifting over a wide area. If this fails to work you can completely relocate to a different area of the lake within a short time.

There was a cool wind blowing into the bay as we drifted and conditions seemed perfect so it was surprising when the fish proved elusive. For an hour we all failed to get even a pull but persistence eventually paid off when we saw Dom’s rod bending as a fighting fit rainbow dashed about on a tight line.

Jeff and I continued to search the water varying fly choice and depth. Jeff persisted with a floating line and team of imitative patterns. We both had a couple of tugs at the fly before Jeff was in action the rod hooping over in a pleasing sign of success. A rainbow of around 3lb had got us off the mark.

Confidence is key especially on a hard day and I tend to stick with a small selection of flies and lures that I have confidence in. I often wonder how many casts are made during a long day on the water my guess is that it must be close to five hundred meaning that the  actual ratio of success is comparatively low. On our day on the lake with four of us fishing we probably made upwards of two thousand casts and actually boated a dozen trout losing around the same number. if you have been casting flies long enough with occasional success there comes a belief that each cast will bring that magical connection. It is undoubtedly that second of delightful connection that keeps us hooked. The bent rod and the singing reel are just the confirmation of success and the netting of the fish the sealing of the deal.

Days fishing always fly past at an alarming rate and this day is no exception. We move around fishing several areas of the lake. Taking in the splendid scenery of rolling farmland, wooded valleys and an ever changing vista of sky and water the light changing as clouds drift high above on the cool North West breeze.

Swallows and martins dart to and fro across the water a sign that warmer days are on the way. Fresh buds are bursting forth on trees and shrubs all around the lake. Whilst mid-April can be cold and a little bleak there is promise in the air that those warmer days of May and June are on the near horizon. The trout will then be feasting on the surface sipping in dries and buzzers.

These early days of the season can bring bumper bags of trout whilst some days can be harder going. The beauty of these bigger waters is that the fishing is not always easy. The fish are earned and success has a greater value because of this. Whilst I enjoy the occasional day on smaller Stillwater’s there is undoubtedly a deeper sense of satisfaction to be found from these vast sheets of water.

The trout of Wimbleball are undoubtedly a worthy prize their full tails giving long searing runs. In addition to the stocked rainbows there are also a good head of wild brown trout some of which have reached an impressive size feasting upon the rudd fry that abound. It would not come as a surprise if someone hooks a double figure wild brown. What a prize that would be!

I look forward eagerly to my next day searching the water with good friends and building upon those tales to tell on future days between fishing forays.

Many thanks to Jeff Pearce and Dominic Garnett for allowing me to share their excellent images on this page.

See Dominic’s enjoyable feature below.

https://dgfishing.co.uk/fly-fishing-on-wimbleball-lake/

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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Tuna -The case for a UK Recreational Live Release fishery.

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Back in the Autumn I fished off Penzance for blue shark and one of the highlights of the trip was to glimpse a huge bluefin tuna leap from the water a common sight in recent seasons. It is wonderful that these beautiful fish have returned to British waters and as an angler I would relish the opportunity to target these powerful fish. I have read several accounts regarding these fish and of the epic encounters had in the past when  anglers fished for these fish in the North Sea off Scarborough and other ports. In those far off days conservation was not considered and many of these fine fish were slaughtered for the glory. Todays anglers are far more enlightened and take every care to ensure that the fish are carefully released at the side of the boat after tagging to provide valuable data for scientific research.
I fear that the overexploitation of the tunas primary food fish will see these fine fish once again leave our shores. The sport fishing community that could be supported by angling would be a huge boost to the West Country economy. I would urge anglers to read the case for recreational live release below and send a letter to your MP as suggested.
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Introduction.

The case for a UK Recreational Live Release

fishery.

Since 2015, Atlantic Bluefin Tuna have appeared late each summer in substantial numbers all across the UK’s Western waters, from Dorset to the Shetlands.
A significant change in the spatial distribution of the species is underway with fish now regularly appearing in UK, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Irish waters each autumn.

It seems likely a combination of long term (20-40 year) climatic cycles, climate change, and the substantial recovery of the species since 2010 are factors in this change.

The most recent stock assessment from ICCATi, SCRS Advice 2020ii (9/2020) stated:

‘….important changes in the spatial dynamics of bluefin tuna may also have resulted from interactions between biological factors, environmental variations and a reduction in fishing effort.’
‘the available data do clearly indicate that the biomass…… has increased since the late 2000s, is high at present, and that there are no concerns that overfishing may be occurring under the current TAC…..’
‘The combination of size limits and the reduction of catch has certainly contributed to a rapid increase in the abundance of the stock’.

The Opportunity.

With the UK now outside of the EU, we have joined ICCAT as a sovereign member, and are able to chart our own path re the management of Atlantic Bluefin in UK waters.
Dozens of other ICCAT members operate recreational Bluefin fisheries, including our non quota holding neighbours such as Ireland, Denmark and Sweden, who have for several years operated large scale angler led CatcH And Release Tagging (‘CHART’) programs. But not the UK.

We believe there are strong arguments to establish a large-scale, Recreational Live Release fishery in UK waters from 2021. Such a fishery would be tightly regulated and licensed as per ICCAT requirements.
It would allow both valuable scientific research through associated data recording and tagging, and bring great socio-economic benefits to UK Coastal Communities.

By engaging anglers and local communities in the management of this species it will help secure the future of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna in UK waters.

Scientific Value.
Worldwide, recreational fisheries for Atlantic Bluefin are the source of much of the data and scientific study that informs crucial management decisions.
The Irish and Scandinavian ‘CHART’ programs have tagged and released over a thousand Bluefin in the last two years, providing valuable data to fisheries managers. A combination of hi tech ‘Satellite tags’ and large scale ‘spaghetti tagging’ have been favoured and supported by ICCAT and conservation bodies such as the WWF.

The UK has limited itself to a Satellite Tag program applying c55 tags at a cost of £1,000,000, providing no socio economic benefits to coastal communities.
A larger scale recreational fishery would be able to supplement the information they have obtained with much additional data via a parallel research program.

Socio-Economic Benefits.

Recreational Bluefin Tuna fisheries have been shown to generate significant economic benefits for the coastal communities hosting the fishing fleets.
Live release fisheries in particular have been shown to be the optimal use of Bluefin resource, generating multiples of revenue per tonne that of commercial harvesting.

The ‘Giant’ Atlantic Bluefin Tuna seasonally inhabiting UK waters present a particularly attractive angling challenge. Anglers will travel great distances (globally) and spend significant sums to catch, photograph and release ‘the catch of a lifetime’.

Here are two examples that we can highlight to illustrate the potential economic benefits of such recreational fisheries .

Canada.

A substantial Bluefin Tuna recreational live-release fishery was established in the waters off Nova Scotia from 2009. It was allocated a portion of Canada’s Quota for Bluefin as ‘mortality quota’ for an exclusively Live Release recreational fishery.

An independent study of this fishery in 2012 ‘Reeling in Revenue’iii concluded:

‘live release bluefin have the potential to generate up to six times more revenue on a per tonne basis than a commercially caught bluefin’.

The study estimated that recreational charter revenues generated Can$100,000/tonne versus the dockside value from commercial fishermen of Can$17,000/tonne.
This was before additional revenue generation related to the fishery was assessed, i.e. visiting angler expenditure on hotels, restaurants, fuel, bait, tackle etc.

In 2014 in a CBC news interview Bluefin charter boat captain Robert Boyd stated:

‘With the charter industry, right now we’re employed for six to seven weeks every fall, instead of just one or two days (harvesting their commercial quota).
The economic spin offs to that are just as valuable to the surrounding community as much as they are to us…It’s different from commercial fishing. It’s more of a tourism business than a fishing business…’

Live release fisheries do this via leveraging quota that must be set against possible mortalities, (that are fraction of, by definition, a 100% rate commercial fishery).

Multiple studies (Stokesbury et 2011 for example iv) show that this can be kept to around 3-5%. Canada incorporates a 3.6% mortality assumption in its fishery.

Applying a 5% mortality rate leverages quota into 20 ‘catch and release events’ for every one estimated post release mortality. Assuming one ‘hookup’ per day, that is 20 Charter Vessel bookings generating circa £15,000 even before the ‘tourism dividend’ from visiting anglers is factored in. In contrast, that one Bluefin dead on the dockside commercially is worth around £2-3,000v. The substantial revenue benefit is very clear.

United States.

Another illustration of the value of recreational Bluefin fisheries comes from the US, the town of Hatteras, North Carolina.
A winter Bluefin fishery was discovered in 1994 as changes in the Gulf Stream brought the Tuna closer inshore. (Comparable to the 2016 event in UK waters?)

The US Fisheries authorities moved to support this fishery via transferring quota and licensing opportunities to Hatteras. Anglers flocked to this new fishery and to this day Hatteras’ winter Bluefin Tuna fishery is a mecca for anglers from all over the world.

Just three years later in 1997 a comprehensive study by the University of Texasvi concluded that this fishery was generating in the order of $5million per year for the community of Hatteras. The report detailed how widespread these benefits were. Numerous businesses and hundreds of employees in the hospitality and tourism sector were direct beneficiaries of this new fishery.

Securing their future.

Engaging local communities in such science has been shown to raise awareness and support for conservation minded policies towards valuable yet vulnerable species. ‘Community science’ bears real dividends in shifting attitudes.

There is evidence worldwide of the economic benefits recreational angling can bring to coastal communities. The leveraging of small amounts of quota in live release fisheries for species such as Bluefin is a very effective use of valuable and often limited quota.
When they also deliver real, measurable socio-economic benefits to communities the support for sustainable long-term management strategies is boosted significantly.

In delivering both valuable scientific and significant socio-economic benefits for stakeholders such fisheries help ensure the future health of these species.

The UK has an opportunity to join the dozens of ICCAT members operating recreational fisheries of a stock that has recovered significantly in the last ten years. Significantly, in establishing an exclusively Live release, well regulated fishery with an important parallel research program, it can set a new world leading benchmark in the optimal, sustainable management of an iconic, valuable species.
i The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, the Global management body for the species.

ii https://www.iccat.int/Documents/SCRS/SCRS_2020_Advice_ENG.pdf
iii https://ecologyaction.ca/issue-area/reeling-revenue
iv https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320711002928
v Based upon data from Pew Charitable Trust, Norwegian Pisheries authority, and Canada’s Dept of Fisheries and Oceans vi https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1577/1548-8675(2002)022%3C0165:TEIOTR%3E2.0.CO;2

Please lobby your MP by sending him this letter and report to increase the scope of tuna fishing in the UK helping skippers and local communities

Today’s date                                     
 
Re: Recreational Sea Angler Live Release Bluefin Fishery
 
Dear your local MP
 
I am recreational sea angler who fishes regularly with several skippers out of Looe
 
My skipper has been keeping me up to date with the progress of the CHART2021 discussions which I understand have been very positive apart from the scale being proposed.
 
The small scale being suggested concerns me as if we don’t help charter boats then not all of them will survive which will then impact the pubs, cafes, restaurants and accommodation which we all enjoy when we go fishing.
 
I have also learned that the UK now have Bluefin quota which means that a Recreational Sea Angling Live Release Fishery for Bluefin is now an option.
 
A RSA Live Release Fishery is the core objective of Bluefin Tuna UK and the Angling Trust and as a recreational sea angler, it is something which I fully support. For this to happen the UK Government need to advise ICCAT that they intend to introduce this fishery before 15th February this year.
 
I consider the charter skippers and the owners of the pubs, cafes etc. which I use when I go fishing as friends and during lockdown I have remained in contact with them. All of them are struggling financially due to Covid 19 and are in desperate need of new opportunities for their businesses.
 
If CHART were scaled up that would help but the better solution by far is to introduce a Recreational Sea Angling Live Release Fishery which would deliver a huge economic boost to those coastal economies. Once international travel is allowed again a fishery like this would attract anglers from other countries as well.
 
I am aware that many MP’s have been approached by a wide group of people and I would like to add my voice to theirs and ask that you lobby the Fisheries Minister to at the very least significantly increase the sale of CHART 2021. However, if the Government are truly committed to coastal communities and the levelling up agenda we hear so often, then they should take the actions necessary to introduce a Recreational Sea Angling Live Release Fishery and begin by advising ICCAT before the 15th February 2021 that they wish to pursue this objective and I would ask that you lobby the Minister for this outcome.
 
Thank you in anticipation of your support
 
Your name and address
Please lobby your MP by sending him this letter and report to increase the scope of tuna fishing in the UK helping skippers and local communities

Today’s date                                     
 
Re: Recreational Sea Angler Live Release Bluefin Fishery
 
Dear your local MP
 
I am recreational sea angler who fishes regularly with several skippers out of Looe
 
My skipper has been keeping me up to date with the progress of the CHART2021 discussions which I understand have been very positive apart from the scale being proposed.
 
The small scale being suggested concerns me as if we don’t help charter boats then not all of them will survive which will then impact the pubs, cafes, restaurants and accommodation which we all enjoy when we go fishing.
 
I have also learned that the UK now have Bluefin quota which means that a Recreational Sea Angling Live Release Fishery for Bluefin is now an option.
 
A RSA Live Release Fishery is the core objective of Bluefin Tuna UK and the Angling Trust and as a recreational sea angler, it is something which I fully support. For this to happen the UK Government need to advise ICCAT that they intend to introduce this fishery before 15th February this year.
 
I consider the charter skippers and the owners of the pubs, cafes etc. which I use when I go fishing as friends and during lockdown I have remained in contact with them. All of them are struggling financially due to Covid 19 and are in desperate need of new opportunities for their businesses.
 
If CHART were scaled up that would help but the better solution by far is to introduce a Recreational Sea Angling Live Release Fishery which would deliver a huge economic boost to those coastal economies. Once international travel is allowed again a fishery like this would attract anglers from other countries as well.
 
I am aware that many MP’s have been approached by a wide group of people and I would like to add my voice to theirs and ask that you lobby the Fisheries Minister to at the very least significantly increase the sale of CHART 2021. However, if the Government are truly committed to coastal communities and the levelling up agenda we hear so often, then they should take the actions necessary to introduce a Recreational Sea Angling Live Release Fishery and begin by advising ICCAT before the 15th February 2021 that they wish to pursue this objective and I would ask that you lobby the Minister for this outcome.
 
Thank you in anticipation of your support
 
Your name and address

Watersmeet Publications – An Opportunity for budding authors

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Well known angling book publisher and conservatists River Reads, received very welcome news going into 2021.

Owners Keith & Sandy Armishaw of Great Torrington, responsible for high quality publications of works by authors such as Fred J Taylor, Chris Yates, Fred Buller, Charles Inniss, Des Taylor and River Monsters own Jeremy Wade (to name a few), announced that son Lee will be pursuing his life-long passion for all things fishing, by joining forces with the Devon based company.

In his fledgling company ‘Watersmeet Publications’, Lee will be working with River Reads and Angling Heritage to continue with more quality book productions that will help to preserve the contributions of some of anglings best known names.

With work already underway on further books, ‘Watersmeet Publications’ will combine the experience of the renowned publishing firm, with Lee’s passion for angling and knowledge of digital tools to develop the business, securing the long term future of the company and providing an excellent platform to produce more quality works.

If you haven’t already, then following River Reads & Watermeet Publicatons on facebook and Instagram is well worth doing to check for news, upcoming (and existing productions) and angling exploits.

The quote ‘’There is a book in everybody’’ rings true and whether you are a budding or established author, if you are considering publishing your book, then get in touch and explore what options are available to you.

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?