WINTER PERFECTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Berkley Wire Cutters – Handy Snips

Berkley Side Wire Cutters

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME TO VISIT YOUR LOCAL TACKLE SHOP

The local tackle shop is an integral part of the angling scene and we are very fortunate in North Devon to have a network of excellent shops offering anglers a wide range of the latest tackle and bait. Recent years have been very difficult for the tackle trade with tackle shops like many other High Street outlets suffering from on-line competition.

Many shops have adapted to this and have successfully combined the at front shop outlet with an online presence combining the best of both worlds.

The tackle shop has always been an important meeting place for anglers where social intercourse leads to more fishing trips as a result of enthusiasm generated from fishy chats. There is nothing to beat face to face conversations even if it is behind a mask in these strange times.

Angling is fortunately booming in many areas as a result of COVID impacting upon many other activities. The joys and benefits of outdoor pursuits have been brought to the fore and it is to be hoped that this has a long lasting impact on angling participation.

I would like to thank the local tackle shops and the wider tackle trade who support North Devon Angling News via sponsoring the site. As Christmas looms ever closer perhaps the ideal gift for a loved one is a  gift voucher for your local tackle shop.

QUAY SPORTS is North Devon’s latest tackle outlet conveniently situated on the Roundswell Industrial estate near Sainsburys. The team offer up to date friendly advice on all aspects of angling with an extensive range of tackle and bait in stock.

SUMMERLANDS TACKLE North Devon’s long established family run tackle shop in Westward Ho! Always has an extensive stock of the latest tackle with a friendly greeting to all.

BRAUNTON BAIT BOX Craig Mc Cloughlin runs this tackle and bait outlet in Braunton and offers a flexible service for anglers unable to visit a shop during normal office hours. Focusing on sea angling Craig is a friendly and knowledgable  point of contact for advice on where to fish and what is being caught. He also  provides rod repairs and reel servicing.

HIGH STREET TACKLE Danny Watson and Pauline Chard run Ilfracombe’s tackle shop specialises in lure fishing stocking a very impressive selection of all the latest lures to tempt the bass that lurk along the North Devon Coast. They also stock quality live and frozen bait for the sea angler. They have an extensive selection of sea angling rods and accessories working closely with the Ilfracombe Charter Boat fleet.

 

INVASIVE SPECIES _ADVICE

A Riverfly Monitoring volunteer alerted me to what he thought could have been a Killer Shrimp whilst carrying a survey on the River Torridge. I passed the details to our local E.A Fisheries officer who alerted the relevant bodies. Fortunately on this occasion it was a false alarm but the relevant bodies are always grateful of reports in their fight against invasive species that can devastate the local eco-system. The EA can be contacted via their Hotline – 0800 807060

www.nonnativespecies.org

KIller Shrimp Species Description

Scientific name: Dikerogammarus villosus AKA: Killer Shrimp
Native to: South-east Europe
Habitat: Still or flowing freshwater and brackish water, often among hard surfaces or vegetation.

A highly invasive shrimp, with only a few known populations in GB. A key ID feature is the presence of cone shaped protru- sions on the tail. Often larger than native freshwater shrimp species and sometimes with a striped appearance.

It is a voracious predator, killing invertebrates and small fish. It quickly dominates habitats it invades and can significantly alter their ecology.

It is tolerant of poor water quality and can survive in damp conditions for up to five days. It could therefore be spread in ballast water and also by people on kit used in the water, including an- gling gear, boats, kayaks and trailers. Good biosecurity is essential to reduce the risk of spread.

As a non-resident species it could be an offence to release or allow the escape of this species into the wild.

Suspected records of this species should be sent with a photograph to: [email protected]

Another species of concern is the top mouth gudgeon see information and links below.

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/fishing/related-articles/the-fisheries-and-angling-team/tackling-the-topmouth-gudgeon

Its time to beat the weather with Braunton Based Company –

As Autumn fades and the chill of winter approaches sea anglers are looking forward to potentially productive nights on the North Devon coast. The key to enjoying winter fishing is keeping warm and dry and the correct clothing is essential in meeting this requirement.

Braunton based Reeds Chillcheater’s manufacture an impressive range of clothing for dealing with extreme weather conditions. I visited their premises for a chat with assistant manager Nigel Beattie.

The recent uptake in outdoor pursuits post COVID lockdowns has resulted in a busy time for Chillcheater’s with sales of the companies Storm Jackets and Storm trousers surging. Worn in conjunction with the companies transpire fleece inners they will keep the angler warm and dry in the harshest of conditions. Other items in the transpire fleece range include socks, long trousers, short trousers, long sleeve tops, zipped or unzipped tops, beanies and balaclavas.

Nigel assured me that after sales is an important factor and in the unlikely event that any clothing fails to meet expectations or is damaged then repairs can be undertaken to rectify the issue.

The company continues to develop new products for anglers and outdoor enthusiasts for the UK market and far beyond. With Christmas looming orders will need to be placed in good time to ensure delivery before Christmas. My own Storm Jacket is still in use and repelling water effectively after at least four seasons of use.

Followers of North Devon Angling News can obtain a 10% Discount just enter the code – BC10 when ordering on line.

Quay Sports fishing Tackle & bait Store have purchased North Devon Tackle.

Quay Sports fishing Tackle & bait Store have recently purchased North Devon Tackle.

An agreement was reached last week and the North Devon Tackle store will be closed as from Monday,November 1st.

All of the popular products and brands that were previously stocked in North Devon Tackle will be available very soon in the Quay Sports store.

A Quay Sports team member said, “We aim to offer the same great service and choice of products that North Devon Tackle have over the past 6 years and would like to wish Jamie all the best for the future.”

The move comes at a time when the High Street continues to contract with larger stores on the edge of town offering free parking and a wider range of products in larger premises. As angling’s popularity continues to grow it is great that a shop front style shop is available for Barnstaple’s anglers.

North Devon Angling News wish Jamie all the best for the future. The advice he gave freely to local anglers was very much appreciated.

BEAVERS ON THE WAY TO NORTH DEVON?

 
     I have followed the debate surrounding the re-introduction of beavers with interest over recent years. Re-wilding is in vogue at present with a drive to bring back a wide range of species including white tailed eagles, beavers, storks and even lynx and wolves.
On the face of it resurrecting many of the species that once roamed the lands of the UK is commendable. Let’s face it we have done an awful amount of damage over the past 400 to 500 years. Taking a look around Waterstones bookstore the shelves are packed with commendable books on the joys of nature, re-wilding and climate change. Perhaps COVID has refocused many minds onto the more important aspects of life that anglers have been appreciating for hundreds of years? It’s as if the greater majority have suddenly woken up to the damage we have inflicted on nature and the planet and want to rush to put it all back as it was without considering that we have lost many pieces of the jigsaw. I am no scientist so my views are that of an observer who enjoys the countryside. I know that eco-systems are extremely complex and the creatures that live within are often inter dependant on other species and the vast range of flora and fauna that grows within.
       The re-introduction of species is perhaps different to invasive species imported from foreign lands. Grey squirrels, mink, signal cray-fish, Himalayan balsam are a few that spring to mind.
      It was with this cautious view that I attended the Beaver talk at Bishops Tawton Village Hall. As an angler one concern I have is that beavers might impair upstream migration. Chris Jones delivered a fascinating presentation about the reintroduction of beavers and I left the meeting erring on the side of reintroducing these huge rodents. The benefits they could bring seemed to outweigh the potential negatives. Beavers apparently live in harmony with salmon in Norway on some of that countries prime salmon rivers. They are now also widespread in Scotland on the River Tay where Miss G.W.Ballantine landed the British Record salmon of 64lb in 1922. Surely if beavers have been introduced there then far wiser persons than I believe that they are beneficial?
Many thanks to Don Hearn who also attended the meeting for allowing me to publish the report (Below) that he wrote for members of the Barnstaple & District Angling Club. I hope to learn more about the project in the coming years when perhaps I will catch a glimpse as a beaver swims past whilst I cast a fly for salmon on the Taw or Torridge.
I attended the meeting in Bishops Tawton regarding Beaver introduction in Devon.
Chris Jones is a founder member of the Beaver trust and has successfully introduced beavers on his farm near Truro. They have managed to alleviate flooding in his area and The figures and flow charts produced by Exeter university are impressive. The proposal is to introduce Beaver into the Caen catchment above Braunton to help with the Caen flooding problem. Our interest lay in the fact that they do populate other areas in time ,and without predators can do well, as they have in Scotland. They may even come up the Taw in future and i understand one has been caught in a camera trap much higher up. There is no suggestion they could populate the lower Taw but would have to be upriver and probably in tributaries. This could all be many years away and would have no effect on the Taw in the foreseeable future. I canvassed the E.A. on their opinion but the consultation has been led by DEFRA. I understand there will be a decision in 3 months with a licencing and long-term management plan to follow. The meeting was titled “Beavers in Bishops Tawton” and was well attended but there was no question of that happening. Wayne Thomas asked about dams impeding migratory fish and was assured they can still get through and haven’t been affected in other rivers. More info about this is available if you google “final report of the beaver salmonid working group” . Clearly A lot of research still needed . Chris Jones has invited us to view his land and beavers near Truro and this can be arranged via ” The Beaver trust” site. I hope to visit it myself in the near future with other interested members.
Regards
Don

THE CHALLENGE OF WIMBLEBALL

Late October and I am excited to be heading across Exmoor on a mild murky morning to target the hard fighting trout of Wimbleball. I am meeting with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce.

The news reports from the lake indicate that catches have been good in recent weeks with the lower Autumn temperatures encouraging the trout to go on the feed. Jeff had fished a match the previous day when some competitors had registered catches into the lower teens.

We were greeted at the boat pontoon by the ever helpful and enthusiastic Trevor who chatted about the day to day complexities of running the fishery and where we might find a few trout.

As we chugged out onto the lake it was soon apparent that the wind was going to be a bit challenging. A force 4 to 6 South Westerly was whipping up white horses on the water. We set up a drogue to slow the drift but even with this in place progress was brisk.

We commenced drifting the narrows casting our offerings close to the shoreline. Jeff was into a hard fighting rainbow first drift. Whilst I managed a couple of tugs. A repeat drift brought a second rainbow for Jeff and yet more pulls and tugs for myself.

On the third drift a savage pull resulted in connection to a pristine rainbow to my rod estimated at well over four pounds.

At this stage it looked like we were heading for a bumper day. But as the wind increased we decided to try our luck elsewhere on the lake. The wind was blasting into the shallows of Bessom’s and Rugg’s where we tried a couple of drifts before deciding to head up to the Upton Arm where we could enjoy more sheltered waters.

The wooded slopes of the Upton Arm were showing the distinctly Autumnal shades of golden browns. We drifted close to the shore where we tempted several beautiful wild browns each admired in the net before being released.

After a couple of hours without a rainbow we decided to head back into the wind. A drift across Cow Moor resulted in me hooking two good sized rainbows that came adrift after a lengthy and enjoyable scrap.

With the day ebbing away fast we headed back to the Narrows. A good sized rainbow teased as it followed the lure to the side of the boat before turning away at the last moment. This was repeated by a blue trout as we contemplated our last casts of the day.

Once again we had enjoyed a fantastic day with plenty of chances not converted into fish in the net. The strong wind had made everything hard work with difficult drifts, tangled lines and hard to find trout.

The joy of fishing these large waters is that they feel like truly wild lakes. The fish fight hard with their full tails and jewelled flanks. I hope to squeeze at least a couple more trips before the seasons end savouring the challenge of Wimbleball.

Briefing from Jamie Cook of the Angling Trust

The Angling Trust have been working hard to influence MPs to vote against the dumping of sewage into our rivers.

A personal view :-

The inadequate sewerage systems are a legacy of years of underfunding by water companies with much of the infrastructure outdated and unable to cope with the extent of development across the country. This is a complex issue and it is easy to blame the politicians and water companies in truth we all need to accept that it is us who produce the product and it is all of us who must foot the bill. The privatisation of the water companies in the 1980’s allowed the government to dodge the issues along with the successive governments that have followed. The need for housing in an ever growing world has exceeded the capacity of a sewerage system built for a much smaller population. The challenges of climate change and severe weather events add additional urgency to the situation.  Anglers at the waters edge are well aware of the state of the nations rivers and have long campaigned against pollution with some success. It is essential that the wider public appreciate what is happening to the Rivers of North Devon and beyond.

Wayne Thomas

Briefing from Jamie Cook of the Angling Trust

A big thank you to all those who took the time and trouble to write to their MPs on the issue of sewage discharges into our rivers and to everyone who supports the work of Angling Trust, Fish Legal and our Anglers Against Pollution Campaign.

As you may have heard, the Lords amendment to beef up the Environment Bill and force more action to tackle storm overflows was defeated in the House of Commons on Wednesday (20th October). But that’s not the end of the story.

Thanks to the many anglers and supporters who wrote to their MP, 22 Tory MPs defied their party whip and joined the Opposition in support of our campaign by voting for the Lords amendment. This will be key to us keeping the pressure on the government to act, especially if we can increase this number next time around.

You can see which MPs voted “No” to the government’s attempt to block the change here.

The Environment Bill now goes back to the House of Lords for further debate tomorrow (26th October). Discussion is taking place between campaign groups, including the Angling Trust, and members of the House of Lords around another attempt to secure action.

And Anglers Against Pollution continues to fight on other fronts. We are calling on the government to take bold action in giving new guidance to the regulator, OFWAT, to allow more investment in cleaning up our sewage systems and make water companies do more to tackle pollution. We set out the case in our recently published joint report, Time to Fix The Broken Water Sector which is gaining a lot of support and attention.

You can rest assured that we are not giving up the fight for cleaner rivers and will continue to press for meaningful action to tackle the scandal of sewage pollution. Thanks again for all you did and we will keep you informed every step of the way.

All the best,
Jamie Cook,
CEO – Angling Trust and Fish Legal

Download a copy of our Time to Fix the Broken Water Sector report HERE

To find out more about our Anglers Against Pollution Campaign click HERE

Lost treasures of childhood days

THE LINGERING ESSENCE OF SUMMER – Fishing out of Beer

The coast was shrouded in early morning mist as dawn broke, sunlight breaking through low cloud to glisten upon the calm waters of Lyme Bay off Beer in South Devon. We were fishing aboard Orca Charters skippered by Stuart Pike. A trip that had been rearranged on several occasions over the past two years due to weather conditions and COVID isolation concerns. I was joined by two previous work colleagues fishing pal Mike Spiller and my son James.

It was mid-October yet there still seemed to be the lingering essence of summer. Mackerel had only recently arrived in any number and it was indeed pleasing to catch a few strings of the fish I had always associated with summer. The weather forecast told of a change over the coming days as low pressure systems were due to sweep in from the South West. This would undoubtedly stir up sediment and reduce the water clarity signalling the transition into the true autumn season.

It is always exciting and refreshing to visit and fish a new venue. It is also extremely rewarding to meet up with a new skipper and glean valuable knowledge that can be deployed both at the venue being fished and further afield.

This was not a serious outing in many ways more of an excuse for friends to meet up and enjoy a day afloat fishing for a variety of species. Derek Walters and Simon Trapnel are not seasoned boat anglers but were very keen to learn and enjoy. Mike Spiller is a long time sea angler and has like myself been dangling a line for many decades. My son James enjoys a day’s fishing and has travelled extensively with myself and my friends in search of fish. He is not a dedicated angler but relishes the experience along with the environment and wildlife that it allows him to observe and enjoy.

This was to be very much a team effort without any competitive edge. Well only a little! Black bream were the main target using light tackle with the chance of ray and conger on a heavier outfit.

Orca is a traditional fishing boat and is ideally suited to fish five or six anglers with comfort. The skipper operates fishing trips in the Lyme bay reserve an area that has benefitted from a mission to forge valuable links between fishermen, conservationists, regulators and scientists in order to maintain a sustainable marine environment.

https://www.lymebayreserve.co.uk 

Stuart had greeted us warmly the moment we had climbed aboard and chatted enthusiastically throughout our day afloat. Imparting a wealth of knowledge learned throughout many years at sea.

I had made up numerous two hook rigs for the intended bream that Stuart frowned upon offering up one of his own bling free rigs. I passed this rig to Derek who proved its effectiveness by out-fishing the rest of us throughout the day.

Derek, Simon, James and myself all targeted the bream whilst Mike decided to focus upon larger fish using  larger baits for most of the trip. I also set up a heavier outfit with joey mackerel or large fillets. The intention was to take it in turns to land fish on this outfit giving everyone the chance of a larger specimen.

As the sun burnt off the morning cloud and mist we soaked up the ambience of the seascape. Gulls cried out, fishing boats floated at anchor, gannets dived into the clear water and porpoises rolled close by.

We lowered our bream baits to the sea bed. Stuart advised us to ignore the initial rattles on the rod tip and wait until the tip was dragged down into the water. We used size 4 Sakuma Chino hooks with slivers of mackerel. Stuart explained that frozen mackerel would out-fish fresh with the bream whilst fresh mackerel would be more likely to attract jumbo sized channel mackerel. This was to prove uncannily true throughout the day.

Shortly after lowering down the big rod its tip nodded vigorously. I took first turn and picked up the rod waiting until the tip plunged hard over before setting the hook by winding steadily until the rod was compressed. This was certainly no dogfish!

Steady pressure soon turned the battle my way and line was steadily retrieved as I pumped the fish away from the seabed. A pleasing blonde ray of 13lb 8oz was soon held aloft for a quick photo before being released. I took delight in watching the fish swim serenely back into the clear waters from whence it had come.

As the tide picked up the bream began to feed in earnest with a succession of these delightful fish coming to the boat. Their silvery iridescent sides illuminated in the sunshine. Bream after bream came to the boat each giving a spirited account on the light tackle employed.

In addition to the bream came a few good sized mackerel and a couple of vividly coloured red gurnard.

The bigger rod once again nodded and James took his turn to subdue another fine blonde ray of 11lb plus. Derek followed up with a small thornback ray. The bigger rod brought a succession of conger up to double figures and the occasional dogfish.

As the day drifted along beneath the warm autumn sun fishing slowed as the tidal flow eased . Stuart discussed options mulling over whether to make a move or stay and hope an elusive undulate ray would show as the boat swung with the changing tide.

We decided on a move higher up onto the reef. As soon as our baits touched down the rod tips signalled that the bream were present with a succession of good fish coming aboard some close to 2lb most around 1lb 8oz. A change to strips of squid brought a period of frantic sport with even my rigs bringing frequent double shots of bream to the boat.

All too soon Stuart indicated that our day afloat was coming to an end. The bream bites were by then easing as pouting started to rip into the baits.

Throughout the day Stuart had worked hard unhooking fish and untangling the occasional entwining of lines. His knowledge of the fish and their environment was outstanding and his pleasure in giving his customers a good day plain to see. Stuart is a qualified Angling Trust coach and delights in introducing new anglers to the joys of boat fishing. He is also a keen angler himself enjoying shore fishing in addition to boat fishing.

As we prepared to leave the fishing grounds a huge dolphin rolled close by a sight that thrilled all on board. We sailed back to Beer’s pebbly shoreline where the boat was driven pleasingly into the shore with a jolt before being hoisted up the pebbles over weathered planks of timber. A well-practiced routine plied by many generations of Beer fisherman.

On shore day-trippers savoured the last days of sunshine and warmth. Ice-creams and coffee, children launching pebbles into the clear waters with pleasing plops. Those simple pleasures that have been enjoyed by many generations.

It had been a perfect day enjoyed with friends, memories made and vows made to set out on another adventure next year all being well.